At this point in history, when faced with the question, “what do you want to achieve in life” (or any similar variations of the question), I would dare say that many of us would answer simply- “to be happy”.
“Happiness” is the most intuitive goal that anyone can have- even the phrase “I want to be happy” seems circular and tautological- to be happy is to live the way you want to, isn’t it? One cannot possibly “want to be unhappy”- if being “unhappy” is an individual’s overarching aim, isn’t being unhappy just a means to the same end?
At this point I am convinced that the phrase “I want to be happy” is meaningless, but a better question lies ahead- why the obsession with happiness?
Here I propose an answer- (a largely unrigorous and callous one, but an answer nonetheless): human “happiness” is but an evolved decendant of animalistic “pleasure”, which is a critical survival tool. I would venture to say that us conscious beings are here today because our biological ancestors have incredibly developed sytems of pleasure which help them to survive. Our obession with “happiness” is but a biological accident. One only needs to think about the pleasure that a monkey (presumably) get when it fills its empty stomach with a ripe banana, giving it the nutrients to live on and procreate; or the displeasure (or unhappiness) that an antelope has when it sees a tiger, which then causes it to flee, and to survive. “Happiness”, in these cases, is not a philosophical end, but a highly effective, purposeful system- a faithful boat which has carried the genes of our ancestors across the vast, deep seas of time.
At this point, it is impossible for us to verify if animals think about happiness just as we do- but what we can be sure of, are two things. Firstly, we can think about happiness; and secondly, “happiness” is no longer necessary to survive. This means that happiness is no longer a necessary system we need, but a choice we can choose to make or not.
For the first time in known history, we can try to deviate ourselves from “happiness”. The faithful ship that our ancestors relied on has hit the shore, and we are free to walk in any direction we choose.